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How Important Is It to Build Friendships in My Support Group?

How Important Is It to Build Friendships in My Support Group?

Support group friendships are essential, whether they are found within peer support groups or in other positive social circles.

Those we call our peers are people who share some sort of characteristic with us. It could be a specific volunteer interest, a professional career, an age or even an illness. Generally we tend to associate with and relate to our peers. The sheer fact that someone is our peer, however, does not guarantee any sort of personal connection in terms of friendship. The fact alone that they are our peer also does not mean that they will be a beneficial source of friendship, either. For example, children commonly hang out with their peers, or those of their similar age, especially during school hours or leisure time. However, when it comes to finding guidance in life or to having friends come to their aid for solving real issues, developing maturity or getting a higher perspective in some regard, they often benefit by cultivating friendships outside of their respective age-group.

The same can be said in the case of a person recovering from an addiction. When people go through addiction recovery treatment, they may come to know many of their addiction recovery peers, and some of these peer relationships will develop and blossom into lasting friendships. Some find solace in seeking friends who have had the same addiction journey as them. The value of such relationships that support groups engender can include the following:

  • Feeling less isolated and judged
  • Talking openly about addiction experiences and feelings in general
  • Developing a better understanding of the addiction disorder
  • Getting practical guidance regarding recovery processes and options1

Realistically speaking, however, the fact that someone has shared a similar case of addiction does not mean that they will become a lifelong buddy. While peer-support in recovery programs can be a valuable tool, not all peers have the healthy frame of mind you need to support your recovery. It is wise to welcome any and all healthy friendships and their value, but choose a sponsor or recovery coach based on careful thought and solid logic.

How True Friendships Facilitate Wellness

Friendships and support groups in themselves are a must. Humans by nature feel the necessity of receiving and expressing genuine, unselfish concern and affection. Though we vary in personality and communication styles, we all share a certain need to express ourselves and to be heard and understood. Friendships that fill these give-and-take needs often stimulate the emotional forces that support self-esteem and better physical and emotional health.

Friends are more than clicks on a social media page. The best way to make friends is in person – face to face – where delicate intricacies such as a tone of voice or a facial expression can be shared. True, many good friendships can be maintained online, and texting pictures or messages throughout the day is a great way to stay in communication; however, it is suggested that social media contacts be kept to those who are known in real life, so that a placebo friendship effect does not develop. A so-called placebo friendship describes one in which individuals spend a lot of time socializing only to find themselves left afterwards as lonely and unsupported as they were before their online session.2

Friends share grief and joy. Some have said that a good friend doubles the joy and splits the grief in half. This is invaluable in the recovery process. Addicts have a hard time experiencing joy in the way that they did before developing their illness. Now, they need joyful things to be called to their attention when possible. Also, certain daily activities may come to feel overwhelming in the recovery process, and being able to experience the stress relief of having a good companion at their side can keep the anxiety at bay — a necessity as those in recovery avoid even the thought of turning back to drugs for support, also known as emotional relapse.

Good Support is Out there – Find it Today!

Research suggests that we choose our best friends according to who is supportive of our social identity. This means that we will genuinely seem to have a close intimacy with people who are supportive of, or similar to how we would like to be known.3 For example, men who like to be known for their glory days on the football team will likely make their best friends old high-school teammate buddies. Addicts who want to be known for a rebellious attitude will seek acceptance among old peers. Therefore, if a person focuses on developing a life free from addiction, he may want to seriously think about what sort of person he wants to be in that life. He will be more likely to reach out to people who match that ideal, and therefore more likely to reach it himself.

Through peer-oriented support groups, a person is able to sense that she is benefiting her peers, and this reinforces the value of working to overcome her own addictive tendencies. Through supportive social circles outside of the addiction treatment field, a person can find other meaningful friendships that will bring along the qualities that she wants to exhibit as a person and provide the emotional support needed to move forward with life.4 Either option supports the fact that good quality friendship is an indispensable help in addiction recovery. Don’t go through the addiction recovery process alone; there’s just no need to! Call us today for additional help about where to get started. Our toll-free line, listed just below, is always available.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management. Found online 1/29/16 at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/support-groups/art-20044655.
  2. Elizabeth M. Tracy, Michelle R. Munson, Lance T. Peterson, Jerry E. Floersch. Social Support: A mixed Blessing for Women in Substance Abuse Treatment. Found online 1/29/16 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952953/.
  3. Psychology Today. Friendship: the laws of Attraction. By K Karbo. Last reviewed 1/2/13. Found online 1/29/16 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200611/friendship-the-laws-attraction.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Making and Keeping Friends. Found online 1/29/16 at http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA-3716/SMA-3716.pdf
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